Using Things to Scaffold Difficult Conversations for Collegiate Residence Life Orientation Participants

Students use diagramming and conversation to explore aspects of social identity, and a card game/training program.

Michael Arnold Mages
Assistant Professor
Northeastern University

People can have a tough time talking with others about certain topics. Some topics can threaten the social identity of participants (Stone, Patton, Heen 2010), which can limit the potential for effective, replete relationships between people (Flores 2012). In the context of college residence life, some students assume formalized leadership roles within the student community, as resident assistants or orientation counselors. Beyond the planned-for duties of conducting the orientation activities, these students become de facto counselors, and play a subtle but informal role throughout the year helping students to adjust to academic and residence life in college. These students, however, are not always prepared to serve to mediate those difficult conversations, or more fully consider the perspective that another student’s intersectional social identity might lend to a particular situation.

To help these students begin to develop strategies for difficult conversations, things can serve in a number of ways: they can offer a frame to help people visualize challenging concepts, can provide an avatar upon which a person can project difficult subject matter, can offer prompts to help a person to develop responses. In short, things can act as scaffolding (Sanders, William 2001) extend the capacity of people to engage with difficult subject matter.

This presentation will share work done in collaboration with the Carnegie Mellon University Office of Residential Education and Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion where students used diagramming and conversation to explore aspects of social identity, and a card game/training program that was developed through an iterative process with design students. This presentation will discuss these artifacts, and propose a model describing a range of approaches by which things might moderate difficult conversation that may be useful for further work in this area.

Flores, F. (2012). Conversations for Action and Collected Essays. (M. F. Letelier, Ed.) (1st ed.). North Charleston, South Carolina: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Sanders, E. B., & William, C. T. (2001). Harnessing People’s Creativity : Ideation and Expression through Visual Communication. In J. Langford & D. McDonagh-Philp (Eds.), Focus Groups: Supporting Effective Product Development. Taylor and Francis.

Stone, D., Patton, B., & Heen, S. (2010). Difficult conversations: how to discuss what matters most ; [updated with answers to the 10 most frequently asked questions about difficult conversations] (2. ed., 10). New York: Penguin Books.

Explorations of Data Lists: How Type, Hierarchy, and Color Reveal the Stories About the Titanic

Level one typography students think about data and typographic hierarchy.

Peggy Bloomer
Adjunct Professor
Quinnipiac University
Southern Connecticut State University

In this project I hoped to make level one typography students think about data and typographic hierarchy with. In my experience, students are not concerned about the data that is collected about them. I hoped to broaden their understanding of the power of data through their creation of a large format poster (24” x 26”) using lists about the passengers on the Titanic purchased from the “Encyclopedia Britannica.”

The textbook for the class is Ellen Lupton’s Thinking About Type. This assignment is an adaptation of Lupton’s hierarchy assignment “Long Lists.” According to Lupton, hierarchy is the organization of content using the spatial clues of indents, line spacing and placement. Other graphic elements that distinguish content include size, style and color.

Researching the list of passengers, students were asked to find human stories. The lists contained information about 1st, 2nd, 3rd class passengers and employees of the Titanic. Surnames, servants, gender, age, nationalities and origin of embarkment were provided. The poster was created in InDesign without photographic images. Students could use and InDesign tools to create color elements and many created ships, funnels, waves and other shapes.

The traditional process of information gathering, sketching and mocking up was used for designing the posters. In-class critiques of 3 smaller 11 x 17” versions helped students realize what was successful or not. Final versions were created to the larger size, printed, presented in class and hung in the department hallway for viewing.

In conclusion, most students realized the economic and gender consequences for passengers. One student used color to emphasize families and the impact was powerful: families died from infants to parents. The students gained knowledge about the power of simple data and almost all of them used size, style and color effectively. The use of indents, line spacing and style guides were not as successful. In the future, I plan to incorporate a slide show of memorials that include powerful images such as Flanders Field, The Vietnam Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial.

Understanding Potential Benefits and Consequences of Art Therapy in Arts Education

Many artists use personal experiences naturally, which often include traumatic memories.

David Graves
Adjunct Professor
Bristol Community College

Art and design educators often encourage students to use personal experience in their creative practice, and many artists use these experiences naturally, which often include traumatic memories. Through this process, art education implicitly utilizes techniques developed and used by art therapists, almost always without the formal training and education of an art therapist. How are these practices beneficial, and what are the potential risks of this kind of teaching/learning, specifically when the educator is not using these approaches intentionally? Is this mode of teaching exclusive to art and design, or can it be found ingrained in pedagogy throughout the Humanities, and beyond?

By understanding how memory works, and which parts of the brain are activated when recalling and talking about traumatic experiences versus creating work about those same traumatic experiences, we know that different biological responses are triggered. This includes the fight/flight/freeze response. Avoiding that trigger is the basis of many art therapy approaches, and is part of the appeal of creating art about trauma rather than talking about it. If we as art and design educators are utilizing this and other therapeutic approaches in our classrooms and studios, perhaps we would benefit from some formal training by professionals in the art therapy field.

This research was initiated by self-exploration into my art and design practice during my graduate studies, before ultimately exploring the experiences of others, in and outside of the creative fields. My research includes an exploration of the making process to cope with trauma, art therapy techniques in children and adults, as well as candid interviews with others about traumatic memory.

Developing Design Curriculum Assessment Goals and Student Learning Outcomes; A Case Study: Typography

Walk through the process of project creation to meet learning outcomes, evaluation of success, and mapping outcomes to student learning.

Andrea Hempstead
Assistant Professor
Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi

No matter your design school pedagogy, the need for defined and executed assessment and student learning outcomes is important for institutional and programmatic accreditation. This can seem a daunting task for most educators, and particularly so for those teaching in creative disciplines. When academics hear “assessment” and “learning outcomes” they often become angry. This anger, is often fueled by fear that the “institution” is trying to control classrooms, or worse, justify teaching positions and approaches. Ultimately, these institutional measures have the best interests of the student at heart. Done correctly, assessment and defined student learning outcomes help to guide instructors to create and revise curriculum to meet student needs and are flexible enough to allow for unique classroom experiences.

Assessment models favor a tiered approach to learning. Typically, there are touch points throughout curriculum where student learning outcomes are introduced, reinforced and mastered. Ideally, outcomes are not addressed solely in one course, but built upon as the student learns and progresses through the program. Once developed and implemented, these learning outcomes can be assessed to evaluate where student learning could be improved, but also can reinforce successes and program strengths. Additionally, program assessments can serve as documentation to reinforce the need for program funding to improve areas of weakness. Assessment documents can serve as justification for improved facilities, software purchases or even faculty lines.

This case study walks through the process of project creation and implementation to meet course student learning outcomes, evaluation of student success regarding course outcomes, and mapping these outcomes to how program student learning outcomes are introduced, reinforced and mastered. Assessment of the project includes analyzing student course outcomes and progression of overall program student learning.

In Restless Aesthetic Pursuit: Recontextualizing Typography

Finding new ways to inject creativity, typographic expression, and a sense of play into typography.

Maria Smith Bohannon
Assistant Professor
Oakland University

Communication and aesthetic resolution are primary considerations in solving design problems. Good, solid typography skills are critical for students, and for practicing designers. But once the typographic skills are honed, what’s next? This study takes a look at how we can inject more creativity, more typographic expression, and a sense of play into typography through analog and digital means, and how that might manifest creative growth.

Expressive forms of design and typography have gained favor at various points throughout design’s history, and two that struck a chord for this project include Futurist poems and Weingart’s typographic studies that intentionally sought rule-breaking. One of the propelling goals of this project was to find new ways to recontextualize typography—modifying letterforms—through physical slicing, cutting, rearranging, stabbing, altering and generally modifying portions of the text, whether it was taking cues from the written words or by analyzing an entire page. The idea of play is an overarching theme, as well as Robert Bjork’s “desirable difficulties”—more difficult tasks will slow down the learning process, but create better retention of the information.

Visual examples include interpretative typographic studies from students, as well as a series of personal studies based on Edgar Allen Poe’s The Oval Portrait. These examples explore typographic methodologies that follow traditional typographic hierarchies and communication goals, as well as designs that break rules, push creative norms, practice self-directed expression and explore personally motivated designs—with the simple goal of discovery and creative expression.

Reading Color: Type in and on Color

A synthesized, inductive approach using Itten’s contrast of extension and Albers’s experimental color studies in application to the visual gestalt of typography.

Jeanne Criscola
Assistant Professor
Central Connecticut State University

Much has been theorized about the transformation of communication from cave paintings to written language and how humans employing materials and technologies impacted their evolution. In 1493, Johannes Gutenberg’s technologies marked a milestone for communication and its distribution with the mechanization of movable type printing. The transition from hot type that went obsolete in the 1950s, to cold type that met its demise around 1985 with desktop publishing, was short-lived. Now, digital typesetting technologies offering myriad configurations of size, font, and layout—in seemingly infinite spectrums of color—present limitless opportunities for the practice of communication design.

This fusion of type and color presents challenges for pedagogy and discourse in the fields of typography and color where they have historically been considered separately in books and in coursework. In typography books, examples typically use letterforms in varying degrees of sizes and contrast to demonstrate colors’ influence on legibility. In books on color theory, the properties of color are often demonstrated with pie-shaped diagrams, color wheels, grids, and in continuous bands. Each pedagogy falls short of modeling today’s communication technologies where typography and color are intrinsic, inseparable, and synergistic.

Methodologies that facilitate the study of typography and color in context and in situ would be welcome by educators and professionals alike. For educators, infusing color theory into the study of typography has advantages for curriculum and course development. For the design student, learning color theory with letterforms integrates their study and practice.

This paper sets out to initiate a synthesized, inductive approach using Johannes Itten’s contrast of extension and Joseph Albers’s experimental color studies in application to the visual gestalt of typography.

Place Matters: Design for Regenerating Under-Utilized Spaces

An investigation of the affordances of a local theatre and an escape room in Ohio to seek for opportunities of under-utilized space design.

Yi-Fan Chen
Assistant Professor of Interaction Design
Farmingdale State College

Jerald Belich
Assistant Professor
Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies
Miami University

Yashodhan Mandke
User Experience Consultant
Fusion Alliance

This design research project began with an investigation of the affordances of a local theatre and an escape room in Ohio to seek for opportunities of under-utilized space design. The participation observations were conducted and found that people, community, content, and environment made positive user experience and increase the users’ loyalty to the spaces. When people co-create a meaning of the spaces, they are likely to make the spaces “their own” and bring their social networks to the spaces.

Kenneth Burke’s Dramatism provides this project with a theoretical framework for the design process. Dramatism analyzes human relationships and has been applied to a broader range of cultural productions. Design researchers and scholars are seeking opportunities to apply Dramatistic Approach to analyze and create designs. For examples, Sadler and Bellew (2009) propose to utilize Burke’s perspectives to analyze and understand a usability situation of design whereas Bowie (2015) proposes to employ Dramatism to examine design products, processes, and discourses. Moreover, Bemer (2010) utilizes Dramatism to design a computer lab for an English Department. According to Burke (1945, 1950, 1968), just as in any plays, the acts in life are keys to revealing human motives. Dramatism provides researchers a method to examine the relationship among human, text, and environments.

A prototype was created by combining empirical research findings and Burke’s (1945) pentad, including act, agent, agency, scene, and purpose, to build positive user experience and increase the users’ loyalty to the spaces. The space design includes three phases, before during and exiting the space. Each phase tells stories that focus on how users see, touch, hear, smell, and feel. Additionally, the design is hoping to change the under-utilized space into a new community space. The users could make the space to their own and revisit the space often with their social networks.


Bemer, A. N. M. (2010). The rhetoric of space in the design of academic writing locations. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Utah State University, Logan, Utah. Retrieved from

Bowie, A. (2015, April 22-24). Exploring the rhetorical orientations of design trends: A Kenneth Burkean approach. In L. Valentine, B. B. de Mozota, J. Nelson, S. Merter, and P. Atkinson (Eds.), Proceedings of the 11th International European Academy of Design Conference. “The Value of Design Research”, Sheffield: Sheffield Hallam University, UK. Retrieved from

Sadler, V., & Bellew, K. (2009, July). Introducing rhetoric into usability: Applying Burke’s pentad. In 2009 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference (pp. 1-5). IEEE.

The Hamden Hunger Project

Addressing the often-overlooked issue of food insecurity in our local community.

Courtney Marchese
Associate Professor of Interactive Media + Design
School of Communications
Quinnipiac University

Amy Walker
Assistant Professor
Quinnipiac University

Michaela Mendygral
Design, Journalism Student
Quinnipiac University

Over the past year, an interdisciplinary team of faculty and students from the School of Communications have worked to address the often-overlooked issue of food insecurity in our local community of Hamden. Members of the journalism and graphic design programs have been using a combination of listening booths, two-way texting, billboards, flyers, surveys, and data visuals to build a dialogue with the community. That dialogue has helped raise awareness of hunger in Hamden, and guide those in need of food to available resources near them. Through this project, we also designed a comprehensive report with the United Way of Greater New Haven to help share key findings with the town, news outlets, and government figures.

The project is part of a broader endeavor to not only “design for good,” but to embrace all that is possible in a School of Communications. Our goal is to make important data and stories more accessible–aesthetically, strategically, and verbally–while teaching students to be collaborative, informed citizens.

Teaching Procedural Rhetoric: Some Lessons

Challenges of analyzing and designing artifacts that presume to use interactivity for communication.

Ian Bellomy
Interaction Designer

This presentation will summarize lessons learned from studio coursework that incorporated Bogost’s concept of procedural rhetoric — an idea about how interactive artifacts make claims, i.e. communicate, by way of their behavior. I incorporated the topic in response to observing multiple senior communication design capstone students treat interactivity as a kind of generic value-add opposed to a space for making communication-affecting decisions. My hope was that the concept would lend students a better conceptual scaffolding for engaging the general challenges of analyzing and designing artifacts that presume to use interactivity for communication.

Results were mixed.

Crafting procedural rhetoric requires crafting emergent phenomena, which is difficult even absent communication goals. Moreover, my initial attempt to simply this challenge by having students design analog artifacts instead of digital ones only replaced the student need for programming competency with a non-trivial need for analog game design competency.

Moderately successful solutions did occur however and project development often showed some movement towards solutions that better integrated visuals and interaction in support of some subject matter. A few students also formulated sophisticated procedural insights about their project’s topic, indicating some systems-thinking growth.

Unexpected positive outcomes also manifest. Some students discovered solutions that worked, in a sense, despite not fitting the procedural rhetoric structure. This helped me formulate alternative strategies for interactive communication in general. I also learned I could isolate components of the procedural rhetoric concept in ways that afforded valuable learning opportunities about causal relationships. I incorporated these insights into later projects.

Guns ARE Alive: How Design/Technology Literacy is Missing From the Gun Debate in America

Design illiteracy affects the gun debate by obscuring how firearms fit into our culture.

Glenn LaVertu
Parsons, The New School

Gun rights advocates often use arguments like “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” or “Cars kill people, too.” These arguments expose a serious design illiteracy issue: that we either ignore or misunderstand the process, evolution, and purpose of weapon design and industrial design in general. Design illiteracy affects the gun debate by obscuring how firearms fit into our culture as well as how they have shaped our history.

Philosophical issues in fields such as aesthetics, technology and ethics greatly affect the gun debate in America in three distinct but overlapping areas: first, as a historical recognition of the gun and its presence as an emblematic container of a legacy of violence, death and power; second, for guiding gun control legislation via a determination and consequent categorization of firearm technology as being appropriate or inappropriate for civilian use; and third, by creating a set of ethics that considers the gun an active and animate object, complicit in the phenomenon of human violence.

This presentation will feature research on six pivotal technological innovations in gun design and the historical contexts for which new firearms features were created, and how an understanding of these design intentions can reshape the political discourse. I will also examine arguments made within the gun debate and how a better understanding of design can change our perception of guns as more than mere objects to become physical extensions of ourselves, reshaping the ethics from which they are considered.

We rarely consider the role which design plays in our lives and in the things we use, let alone as part of the discussion about guns; and in those rare instances when we do, we prove that we don’t know much about design, or guns. The analysis here will show that design, while an important and foundational facet to the debate, is an area of knowledge we are sorely lacking.

Whatever your stance on the gun issue, better design knowledge can raise more nuanced questions and can steer the argument in more positive ways. Perhaps by broadening the debate to design we can find a new consensus or allow for compromise. It is crucial at this moment, with so much gun violence at the center of our lives, that we give it a try. Lives are at stake.